Was Gen. Dempsey Goading Israel to Attack Iran?

More

Chemi Shalev has an interesting interpretation of Gen. Martin Dempsey's unfortunate comments earlier this week -- he said the U.S. doesn't want to be seen as "complicit" in an preventive Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, which when coupled by the U.S. decision to radically reduce the scale of a joint Israeli-American missile defense exercise, suggests that the Obama Administration is, to some degree, cutting Israel adrift. I don't think it's actually cutting Israel adrift; its goal is to prevent Israel from attacking Iran before the November election, and one way to do that is to reinforce the message to the Israelis that Obama means what he says when he says he will stop Iran from going nuclear. Anyway, it's a bit of a mystery. As readers of Goldblog know, I'm in the camp of people who believe that Obama is serious about stopping Iran, but this week I've had my doubts about the overarching strategy. Here's Shalev:

If I didn't know any better I would assume that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey is trying to goad Israel into attacking Iran. Otherwise, why would he go to such great lengths to try and persuade them that Israel is on its own and can rely only on itself?

Because that is the net effect of Dempsey's statements in London last week, especially his yet-to-be-properly-explained use of the word "complicit" as in "I don't want to be complicit if they [Israel] choose to do it." Complicit? As in what - war crimes?

Even if one accepts the validity of Dempsey's assertion that an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities would "delay and not destroy" Iran's nuclear program, and even if one understands the need for him to spell out the Administration's belief that such an attack would "thwart" the "international coalition" - whatever that means - his use of the word "complicit" is somewhere on the scale between unfortunate and way out of line. And to make matters worse, despite the days that have passed, it has yet to be explained or retracted or apologized for, as the Wall Street Journal correctly pointed out in its Friday editorial.

By the way, Dempsey is right: An Israeli attack would be premature and potentially ineffective.
But the way to convince the Israelis that the Obama Administration is serious about stopping Iran is not to make statements that reinforce Prime Minister Netanyahu's belief that Israel stands alone on the issue. That makes an attack more likely, not less. Of course, Gen. Dempsey could be privy to information that we don't have -- which is to say, he knows that it is too late to stop Netanyahu and Barak from launching an attack before November, and is simply trying to protect American forces in the Gulf from the fallout. For what it's worth, I don't think Netanyahu and Barak have decided to attack before November. Quite the opposite: I'm under the impression they see the window of opportunity shutting fairly rapidly.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. Author of the book Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror, Goldberg also writes the magazine's advice column. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. Previously, he served as a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward, and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

His book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. Goldberg rthe recipient of the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism. He is also the recipient of 2005's Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

The Time JFK Called the Air Force to Complain About a 'Silly Bastard'

51 years ago, President John F. Kennedy made a very angry phone call.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Global

From This Author

Just In